AJPW A Road to the Kings (Chapter 1)

What is this?

This will be a series where I review matches from the “Four Corners” from All Japan Pro Wrestling’s King’s Road era in chronological order from 1990 to 2000.

Who were the “Four Corners?”

Mitsuharu Misawa, Kenta Kobashi, Toshiaki Kawada, and Akira Taue.

What was King’s Road?

The story of the Four Corners and their “Road to the Heavenly Kings.”


To start us off, Kenta Kobashi vs Tiger Mask II from March 6, 1990 in the Budokan!

3.6.90: Kenta Kobashi vs Tiger Mask II

Kobashi hit multiple dropkicks and armdrags throughout this match. Kobashi sent Tiger into the corner, but Tiger jumped onto the second rope and hit a crossbody. Soon after, Tiger was going for a neckbreaker, but Kobashi fell out of sync with Tiger. Kobashi attacked Tiger’s left leg the majority of the match, with various submissions such as the figure 4, he also did a rolling pin into a submission which was neat, Tiger didn’t do the best job at selling it though. Kobashi hit a nice wheel kick, and after Tiger rolled outside he hit a top rope crossbody to the floor. Tiger quickly after hit a sliding kick and then a plancha to the outside. Kobashi was almost able to pick up a victory with a bodyslam into a Moonsault, but only got a 2 count. Tiger hit a nice looking German Suplex for a 2, the crowd began to cheer on the young Kenta Kobashi soon after that. Kobashi almost got a win with a reversal of a Tiger Driver into a Northern Lights Suplex. There was a nice spot where Kobashi went for a diving dropkick but Tiger Mask hit a dropkick to his legs while he was in the air, after both got up, Kobashi went for a backdrop, but Tiger reversed it into a crossbody for a very close 2 count. Tiger hit a kick to the face, and then a kick to the back of the head, and then a Tiger Driver to Kobashi to finish the match off. Mildly Recommended

This was a good 15 minute match, the neckbreaker botch was pretty bad, and I wish Tiger Mask would’ve sold the leg work better, but everything else was pretty good. Kobashi being in control the majority of the match was surprising and it showed how much faith they had in Kobashi considering he had only been wrestling a year and a half and Tiger Mask II had been wrestling 7 years.

Now, onto a match from 2 months later, featuring Kawada and Tiger Mask II vs Yoshiaki Yatsu and Samson Fuyuki.

5.14.90 Yoshiaki Yatsu and Samson Fuyuki vs Toshiaki Kawada and Tiger Mask II

The match began with some technical wrestling between all 4 of them. For a few minutes, Yatsu and Fuyuki had control with quick tags. Yatsu and Fuyuki hit Tiger Mask with dozens of headbutts, also threw him around. Tiger eventually got the advantage with a rolling wheel kick to Yatsu, he then told Kawada to take his mask off, and under the mask was Mitsuharu Misawa! Misawa then quickly took out both Fuyuki and Yatsu! Kawada got a 2 count with a powerbomb on Fuyuki after being tagged in. Kawada and Fuyuki then began exchanging palm strikes, and then Kawada tagged in Misawa, Kawada hit a brainbuster to Fuyuki and then Misawa hit a splash. After both of them took out Yatsu, Fuyuki went for a backdrop to Misawa, but Misawa flipped over, and Kawada hit Fuyuki with a lariat! Misawa was then able to get the 3 count with a German Suplex!

This match was decent, Misawa taking the mask off is the only thing I can think of to note here.

Onto a match from 12 days after Misawa unmasked, Misawa/Taue/Kobashi face Jumbo Tsuruta, Great Kabuki, and Masonobu Fuchi!

5.26.90 Mitsuharu Misawa, Akira Taue, and Kenta Kobashi vs Jumbo Tsuruta, Great Kabuki, and Masonobu Fuchi

This match featured 3 members of the new generation of All Japan vs 3 older members of the All Japan roster. During the match, there was a lot of interaction between Misawa and Tsuruta, with both wanting to kill the other. There was some technical wrestling during the match, the opposite team worked over Kobashi’s legs. The match definitely picked up during the last few minutes, which had lariats, backdrops, etc. The finish to the match was Kobashi and Misawa taking Tsuruta and Kabuki off the apron, and then Kobashi hit a German Suplex to Fuchi, but only got a 2 count. Misawa was tagged in and went for a Tiger Driver, but Tsuruta got into the ring and nailed him with a lariat, Fuchi went for a pin but only got a 2 count. Fuchi hit an enzuigiri, and then went for a German Suplex, but Misawa reversed, and hit a Tiger Driver to pick up the win! Recommended

This was a very good match, the Misawa/Jumbo interactions were nice and set up a Misawa/Jumbo main event at the Budokan well.

Speaking of the Budokan, we’re onto Dr. Death Steve Williams vs Kenta Kobashi!

6.8.90 Kenta Kobashi vs Steve Williams

The match opened with a staredown between the two, and Kobashi refused to back down, eventually Williams applied a bearhug, and then hit a belly-to-belly suplex, but Kobashi kicked out at 2. Kobashi also got offense in, with backdrops, lariats, monkeyflips, etc. He tried to get a pin on one of the top gaijin in All Japan with a backdrop, but was shoved to the other side of the ring at 1. Kobashi almost won a few times though, he hit a German Suplex and almost got a 3. After the German Suplex, Kobashi hit a bodyslam and climbed to the top rope and hit a Moonsault, but Williams kicked out at 2.9. Williams eventually stopped the young Kobashi’s offense, and nailed an Oklahoma Stampede, but Kobashi kicked out! Williams then climbed to the top rope and delivered a flying shoulder attack for the win. Recommended

This was a good match showing Kobashi’s fighting spirit against one of the top gaijin in All Japan at the time, but just wasn’t able to get the win.

Now onto the main event of that show, Jumbo Tsuruta/Misawa.

6.8.90 Jumbo Tsuruta vs Mitsuharu Misawa

This was a match between the current top star of All Japan Pro Wrestling and the next top star of All Japan Pro Wrestling. This match was full of Misawa’s kicks, dives, elbows, etc. It also had Tsuruta’s knees, lariats, powerbombs, etc. Misawa had the advantage in speed, and Tsuruta had the advantage in power. The match had many submissions such as abdominal stretches and Boston Crabs. The first part of the match had bodyslams, knees, and big boots from Tsuruta, but Misawa was able to take advantage with dropkicks elbows and kicks, Misawa also took Tsuruta out of the ring and hit a dropkick off the apron, and then hit an elbow over the barricade. The second part of the match was a bit slower, but the match really picked up in the last few minutes. The actual ending was Tsuruta not being able to capitalize on a backdrop and then Misawa got up and hit a German Suplex but Tsuruta kicked out. Misawa then went for a Tiger Driver, but Tsuruta flipped him over and got a 2 count, Tsuruta then hit a high knee, Irishwhipped Misawa into the corner, Misawa jumped onto the 2nd rope and went for a crossbody, but got hit with an elbow from Tsuruta! Jumbo missed a high knee, Misawa picked him up and went for a brainbuster, Tsuruta reversed and went for a brainbuster, Misawa floated over, went for a backdrop, Tsuruta countered into a crossbody, got a 2 count, but Misawa rolled over and got the pin! Highly Recommended

This was a fantastic match which told a story, the last few minutes of the match were great, and the match established Misawa as a star and as the next ace of All Japan.

That ends the first chapter of this series with Mitsuharu Misawa pinning Jumbo Tsuruta in the Budokan. In the next chapter we see some more Kobashi singles matches, and we also get some build-up to a second Jumbo/Misawa match!

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